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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Greatest Who Albums

Your picks include ‘Live at Leeds,’ ‘Tommy’ and ‘Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy’

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The Who are planning on launching their "last big tour" sometime in 2015, but right now, their main project is a super-deluxe edition of their 1969 landmark rock opera Tommy. It contains a remastered version of the album along with Pete Townshend's original demos and live versions of the songs from 1969. Tommy is arguably their most famous album, but every single record by the original lineup of the Who is cherished by fans. We asked our readers to select their favorite Who albums. Click through to see the results. 


Courtesy Polydor Records

4. ‘Live at Leeds’

Tommy was a bigger hit than the Who could have possibly imagined. They were suddenly headlining major festivals and playing to sold-out opera houses in major cities. The played the entire album every night, along with earlier songs and covers like "Young Man Blues" and "Summertime Blues." They were on fire every single night, playing some of the greatest concerts in the history of rock.

In late 1969, they began taping shows for a possible live album, though Townshend was unhappy with the results and ordered the tapes burned. (How many shows, if any, were burned remains a matter of hot dispute.) Tapes were rolling again when they played Hull and Leeds, England in February 1970, but Entwistle's bass parts weren't captured during the opening songs at Hull, so they released the Leeds show. The original record of Live at Leeds just had six songs (three of which were covers) to showcase their pre-Tommy live repertoire but, over the years, they've slowly released the complete show. They even released Hull, simply swapping in John's bass from the Leeds recordings on the opening songs. 

Courtesy Polydor Records

3. ‘Tommy ‘

In the fall of 1968, Pete Townshend sat down with Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner to share his idea for an ambitious rock opera. "The package I hope is going to be called 'Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy,'" he said. "He's seeing things basically as vibrations which we translate as music. That's really what we want to do: create this feeling that when you listen to the music, you can actually become aware of the boy, and aware of what he is all about, because we are creating him as we play." Pete hadn't even started to record yet, but he already knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish.

The tragic story of Tommy – who is abused by his cousin Kevin, his Uncle Ernie and even raped by a woman hired by his parents – mirrors some of the trauma in Townshend's own childhood. The finished product was an absolute triumph, earning the band a global hit with "Pinball Wizard" and proving that rock & roll could stretch beyond short singles. It seemed like the most ambitious rock album possible, but Townshend was just getting started. 

Courtesy MCA Records

2. ‘Quadrophenia’

Pete Townshend was still in his twenties when he began plotting out the Who's follow-up to Who's Next, but he already felt like a relic of another era. The Who had been around for a decade, which for a rock band felt like an eternity. His mind turned back towards the band's early days playing wild sets to hordes of mods hopped up on pills. He decided to write another rock opera, this time about a young Who fan named Jimmy battling with girls, his parents, his friends and even his own mind.

Touching on real-life incidents – like the Brighton Beach brawl between mods and rockers – the double album Quadrophenia was a worthy follow-up to Tommy, though this time, kids all around the world related to Jimmy and his intense feelings of isolation. It proved too difficult to play onstage in 1973, but they revived it in 1996 and 2012 to much acclaim. 

Courtesy Polydor Records

1. ‘Who’s Next’

Most people listen to Who's Next and hear a near-perfect rock album. Songs like "Behind Blue Eyes," "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley" are some of the most enduring songs in the Who's entire catalog and have been played millions of times on classic rock radio. The songs have also been at the center of nearly every Who concert over the past 40 years. It was a huge best-seller, bringing the band into the 1970s and guaranteeing they'd never face an empty arena as long as they could continue touring.

But to Pete Townshend, the album is a reminder of his failure. The songs were originally intended for a crazily ambitious rock opera called Lifehouse. The plot is so complicated that only Townshend truly understands it, and he was unable to realize it on record. Who's Next is a bunch of songs intended for Lifehouse mixed in with a few other tracks, like John Entwistle's hysterical "My Wife." Pete Townshend released Lifehouse under his own name in 2000 as The Lifehouse Chronicles. It wasn't nearly as good as Who's Next. Not even close. 

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